So its that time again where we put a device under the microscope to find out if it is any good. This time around it is the turn of the Honor Watch ES.
I want to get one thing out of the way first though. Even though this is marketed as a watch and the core functionality of that is to tell the time, a smartwatch needs to do much more than that. This is an important thing to know going into the review, plus we need to know the difference between a smartwatch and fitness band. I have covered this in my previous review of the Zepp E Smartwatch so I won’t go too far into that.
Where does this wearable fit in? Well, that is what I intend to find out over the course of this review. Plus I must also try to find out if it is any good and worth your money. The good news is that I have spent a few weeks with the Watch ES as my daily driver and, during that time, I have been able to discover all its little tricks along the way. I am going to dive in now and I hope that you can take the time to join me.
Your first thoughts, out of the box, will be how good it look. Also, when you factor in the price, you’ll realise that it is a little bit better than just “good”. This thing is great for the price (just £99 as I type). Now, I know that doesn’t sound like the greatest accolade for a device in the world but it is true. The Watch ES looks like it should cost more than it does and you can instantly see why. The device has got an awesome screen that is great to look at and also to interact with. It is bright in nearly all lighting conditions. I never had a time where I found myself struggling to read the screen, even in sunlight (something that has been lacking as of late). This is because the Watch ES packs an AMOLED display measuring in at 1.64″ with a PPI of 326. I have seen laptops and smartphones with a lower PPI count than that!
The rest of the body is made out strong and solid-looking plastic that is nothing special but it does give a reassuring feel of durability. It is the sort of thing that will blend into to your life without shouting “hey look at me” which is, in my opinion, a very important feature of any wearable.
Just because you are wearing tech on your wrist doesn’t mean you want to be singled out. One area which is confusing is that the Watch ES is similar in dimensions to a lot of the fitness bands on the market be them from big-name brands like Samsung or Fitbit. The reason this is a problem is no fault of the device but more of the people who named it. This device shouldn’t be called “Watch ES”, as all that is doing is creating confusion amongst a confused wearable market.
We need distinctions between what a fitness tracker is and what a smartwatch is. There has been a move from some manufacturers to try and give the best of both, however they do make compromises to do this. So maybe a name along the lines of the “Honor Fit ES” would’ve been better? Hey, what do I know, I am no marketing specialist!
I have covered the design more in my unboxing which you can read here
Moving on from the design to the internals.
What is it that makes this device tick (pun very much intended)? Well, information on exactly what chip this device runs is a bit scarce but we do know that it is Huawei’s own silicon. That’s no bad thing as Huawei’s got very good at making chipsets that are efficient and powerful. Alongside that is the battery. This delivers up to 7 to 14 days of life without the need to plug in, which is awesome to see and I am very happy about. We also have a load of sensors on board to record our movements on a human level and the movement of oxygen in our blood on a microscopic level. The latter can be done via a SpO2 sensor on the rear. SpO2 sensors are appearing more and more on smartwatches and some of the more high spec fitness bands. So the Watch ES being a crossover or hybrid of these two segments, it, of course, has one on board. Now, unlike the Apple Watch or the Galaxy Watch 2019, the Watch ES can only tell you what your SpO2 is and not what is actually wrong with you. For this, you will need to still go and see a doctor.
I did like the inclusion of the sleep monitor as, when I am wearing the Watch ES in bed, it will keep an eye on my sleep patterns which I now know are sketchy and erratic. This us a feature that all smartwatches should have but to do this they need a watch that will last more than 24 hours.
On a final note about the hardware, I was happy with the strap as it proved to be comfortable and thankfully didn’t cause any irritation whilst I was wearing the Watch ES. I have had other watches which become uncomfortable to sleep in, this wasn’t. Another important thing about the way the Watch ES sits on my wrist is that it doesn’t stand that proud off my arm as to cause discomfort. I have found this with my TicWatch S2 – when I was working whilst wearing carpenters gloves that have a decent size velcro strap, the button would get pressed. Partly due to its smaller footprint both in width and depth I have not had this problem. This particularly something worth bearing in mind as we come into the chillier parts of the year.
That about sums up my thought on the physical aspects of the Watch ES.
Now to get on with the digital elements.
During my time with the Watch ES, I started to realise that I need to think of it not as a smartwatch or a fitness band but as a hybrid of the two devices. It was once I started looking at it in this way that things started to make more sense and I could start to realise the capability of this device. I found that the battery would just keep going and going it was akin to be powered by those damn little bunnies from the adverts. When it did finally succumb to the low battery life death it was quickly rejuvenated without losing too much of that all-important fitness data that I had been working on building up.
On the fitness from the Watch ES is great it tells me when I need to get up and to do some exercise. This has been very useful in my current working climate of at home working. A quick jaunt up and down the stairs, a few times and I was back in action albeit feeling more rejuvenated if a bit sweaty!
If I had been wanting to do a bit more than the stair climbs then The Watch ES has some Fitness Course built-in which with the very helpful guided steps and exercises I could take part in. I only got as far as the stretching one to be fair but I felt that I was guided through it very well by the Watch. It is like having a teeny tiny fitness buddy attached to your wrist just without the protein shakes.
As for the other features that I found myself using, they were nearly all present and correct. I had weather forecasting at a glance and swipe away. I could control my music from my phone (it does need you to start playback on the phone first though). I could set timers and alarms at will with only a few taps needed. It tells me I haven’t been getting enough sleep and that I am not as stressed as I thought I was, so all in all this is a very competent piece of kit.
However that is not the full story, and for those of you who have read some of my previous wearable reviews, you already know what is coming. The way Watch ES handles notifications is a deal-breaker for me as it was on the Zepp E watch that reviewed recently as well. I have become very accustomed to using Google Wear on my smartwatches and I have become comfortable with the notification system on it. The ability to dismiss messages completely from the watch is a godsend, particularly with emails. It means I only have to do it once. On the Watch ES, I can delete the notification from the Watch but it will still be on my device. This becomes laborious after some time and the reverse is also true. This is the missing element for me that sets the device apart from a full smartwatch. I understand the reasons why and the fact that a propiertry OS for a watch can only have so much control over a phones OS but I have just become so used to the harmony between Android and Google Wear that it is hard to let it go.
So where does that leave us then?
It leaves us with a really good fitness band, probably one of the better ones out there especially given the price. On the flip side, it gives us a poor smartwatch. Thank God this is not being used to target the customers who, like me, want the full smartwatch experience. This watch has been built for those who want the best of both those camps and in this, it excels. If this is you then I would thoroughly recommend the Watch ES as you will struggle to find hybrid fitness band and smartwatch for a better price. The only real competition is its closely related cousin the Huawei Watch Fit which is about £30 more expensive due to the fact it has GPS on board.
Honestly, once I made the mental switch to the hybrid way of thinking I was very pleased with the Watch ES and for the non-techy user who wants to keep track of their fitness, this is a great device and well worth the £99 asking price.
You can pick up an Honor Watch ES now from the Honor Webstore for £99 and they will throw in either some Honor Bluetooth headphones or a Min Speaker for free!